October 11, 2013

No Rest For The Wicked: Insomniacs In the Bible

On the night after Haman built a gallows for the purpose of hanging Mordecai, King Ahasuerus [Xerxes] could not sleep.

Esther 6:1 ~ “On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king.”

What is comical about this incident is that in any other circumstance, having the equivalent of the United States Congressional Record read in the middle of the night would put anyone to sleep. It probably had done just that for the King in the past and that is why he calls for the chronicles to be read again. On this night that would not be the case for King Ahasuerus. Why couldn’t he sleep? It is providential protection by God of His people through the King’s inability to sleep.

Were there physical causes to the Kings insomnia? Perhaps, but what is more importantly understood here is the spiritual angle. The spiritual man, both then and now sees the action of God in all the events of life, even in so trivial an instance as the sleeplessness of a single man. For many nights he may have been sleeping well, but he now comes to an exact point of time…

"On that night…” Is God working here behind the scenes? It is more than probable, it is certain. He is working at a specific point in time at a specific place. He is doing it in the lives of specific people under specific circumstances. We see God enter history-to create history to maintain and control it’s proper flow through not only kings but even the common man. Everyone is important in God’s economy from the President to the mailman, from the CEO to the garbage man.

As Christians we must always see exceptional circumstances of life as having a possible theological significance or divine source. To speak of the acts of God’s providence and sovereignty as commonplace is dangerous and can degrade the acts...and God. This can never be a good thing.

The records that would be read were opened at a curious place. Why did they not open a page before, or a page later? It is either strange indeed that those who read the records turned to the place where, (v.2) "It was found written, that Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.”

Scofield sums up some of the incident quite succinctly…
"Here is a remarkable instance of the veiled providential control of God over circumstances of human history. Upon the king's insomnia, humanly speaking, were hinged the survival of the chosen nation, the fulfillment of prophecy, the coming of the Redeemer, and therefore the whole work of redemption. Yet the outcome was never in doubt; for God was in control, making the most trivial of events work together for Haman's defeat and Israel's preservation. (The New Scofield Reference Bible, P. 566)
We know how the story ends. The gallows Haman has built are used against him. The tables are turned and he is hung on his own instrument of death. Haman’s own sin becomes his own undoing. Haman’s pride causes his own demise.

Moving on to the wisdom books we run into the following.

In Proverbs 4:16 we read “For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.”

The question is begged here: Who is “they”? To me it is clear they are someone evil or wicked and they are robbing and causing someone to stumble. They are the immorally wicked people bent on their sin. A person can become as zealous for evil as for good. This zeal to do evil is depraved and is an upside down morality (Romans 14:21). We see this preeminently in our world today where everything seems upside-down and inverted.

The character of the wicked is clearly made in their demonic father's image. We get a picture of wickedness that is neither wearied nor inhibited. Their wickedness and the evil of their taskmaster will not allow them to sleep.

It is literally the proverbial: No rest for the wicked.

We see the troubled spirit of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2.

Daniel 2:1 ~ “In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him.”

The form of Hebrew wordage here heightens the concept of internal unquiet so much so that it is outwardly manifest." His sleep was gone. The reason of so great a disquiet cannot be found in the circumstances of the text. The best that can be surmised is that the inability to not remember the dream made the unsettling feeling worse for Nebuchadnezzar. The uneasiness was created in him similar to that of Pharaoh in Genesis 41. This historical indicator should give us precedent on which way to turn to find the origins of the dream…it comes from the One True God. This is why the story of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream closely parallels that of Joseph and Pharaoh’s dream. They come from the same source. Anyone that has had experiences of God coming near them will attest to the complete unraveling affect this close encounter with God can have on a mere mortal. We see the same all over the Bible. People falling flat on their faces, prostrating themselves, their knees buckle under them, etc...

It is no wonder Nebuchadnezzar can’t sleep. He just had a close-call with Almighty God and this would have an unnerving effect one anyone.

Finally we see that while Daniel was in the lions' den, King Darius stayed up all night.

Daniel 6:18 ~ “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Again we see a king and again Daniel is in the picture. No dream this time with the king though, only a guilty conscience. After Daniel had been thrown into the lions' den, its mouth was covered with a flat stone, and the stone was sealed with the king's seal and that of the great officers of 
State so that nothing could change or be changed concerning Daniel's fate. The king spent a tormented sleepless night in sorrow on account of Daniel. He spent the night in fasting, nor did he involve himself sexually with his concubines.  The following morning the king rose at the dawn and went to the den of lions, and with lamentable (grieving) voice called to him, halfheartedly hoping that Daniel might be delivered by his God whom he continually served.

…and this is exactly what the king finds. 

Daniel is alive. We see a faith in God from a pagan king. Due to Daniel’s survival, the king is overjoyed and exceedingly glad. Daniel answers the kings feeble voice. The one subjected to the peril replies robustly and the one in the palace is worse for the wear, angst ridden and tired as sin not having slept all night. It is an issue of role reversal except that Daniel never seems to have lost faith in the God whom he served.

We know the end result of those that had conspired unjustly against Daniel. They and all their families are thrown into the pit with the ravenous lions and they are summarily torn to pieces. So violent was the death of these accuser’s families that their bones were shattered before they even hit the floor of the den. It wasn’t as if these lions weren’t hungry…no…it was God providentially protecting His faithful servant Daniel.

It is also interesting that the king would use the predicate “living God” when calling to Daniel in the den to see if he was still alive. The king realized the Daniel’s God was active and living in Daniel’s life (probably from previous conversation with Daniel) and it was in this thought of Daniel’s God that Darius had rested his hope in Daniel’s possible survival.

It was a well-placed trust. It is also a well-placed trust for us as believers. It is a trust that God’s Son came and died for our sins that we might have life. It is life from a living God in which we commit everything including our lives now.  There are some things that never change even over the sweeping arc of history from Daniel unto today. It is a history which a living God is actively involved in. Faith in God’s promises and just nature are just two of His immutable and unchanging attributes that we can count on…just like Daniel…just like King Darius. The great thing about a pagan believing in the promises of God and His Son is that when that pagan believes…he is no longer a pagan…he becomes Christian and is heir to eternal life.

That should let believers sleep easy at night.

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